Crick and Koch proposed that the claustrum plays a crucial role in consciousness. Their proposal was based on the structure and connectivity of the claustrum that suggested it had a role in coordinating a set of diverse brain functions. Given the few human studies investigating this claim, we decided to study the effects of claustrum lesions on consciousness in 171 combat veterans with penetrating traumatic brain injuries. Additionally, we studied the effects of claustrum lesions and loss of consciousness on long-term cognitive abilities. Claustrum damage was associated with the duration, but not frequency, of loss of consciousness, indicating that the claustrum may have an important role in regaining, but not maintaining, consciousness. Total brain volume loss, but not claustrum lesions, was associated with long-term recovery of neurobehavioral functions. Our findings constrain the current understanding of the neurobehavioral functions of the claustrum and its role in maintaining and regaining consciousness.
Keywords: Claustrum; Consciousness; Neurobehavioral function; Penetrating traumatic brain injury.
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